We’re back from our Christmas Break trip, and I am feeling like my soul could use a morality shower. Not having TV at home, it is always a bit of a shock to the system to see what is pouring into people’s homes for hours each day. It used to be that I worried when the boys watched the Disney Channel, hating the casually crude language not to mention the constant focus on romance and the aesthetically anemic content. Flipping through the channels now, I worry about the foul language, nudity and progressivist social agenda.
Television is not, of course, a mirror, exactly representing our society’s moral image. I hope, at least, that the values portrayed in sitcoms and “reality” shows are not those of my neighbors and friends. However, with the average American watching almost seven hours a day, it can’t help but have a severe impact. It’s less a looking glass and more of a prophetic picture of where we are headed.
Jim and I have always strived to be thoughtful regarding our family’s interactions with pop culture. I wouldn’t say we are entirely conservative which, for me, brings to mind a suspension of the arts in general. I suspect that some of the things we have allowed our kids to read and listen to might disturb James Dobson. (Just to clarify, I am talking Harry Potter and The Killers). We generally evaluate things from an aesthetic as well as a moral viewpoint. Therefore, our children are a strange mix of conservative (they are forbidden to watch SpongeBob because I am certain it makes you stupid) and adventurous (they love Josh Ritter). I have always seen us as occasionally stepping out of the mainstream of pop culture while remaining part of the general flow. That is, until now.
Over the last few weeks, when confronted with what passes for entertainment in our society today, I can’t see how any American Christian family could see themselves as anything else but serving in the mission field of a lost and pagan land. Maybe it is a symptom of the modern evangelical view of missions that we have ever considered ourselves anything but missionaries. How might our perspective on everyday life change if we started thinking of ourselves as strangers in a strange land rather than as natives?
1) If you were living in a foreign country, chances are you wouldn’t understand the native tongue and therefore wouldn’t waste your time watching television. News Bulletin: You either don’t or shouldn’t speak the language of a lot of TV today. Turn it off and read a book. Not only will you be guarding your soul, you will be doing something good for your mind. Just make sure you read a good book. If you do watch TV, be sure not to leave your brain behind while you zone out on the couch. There is no neutral when it comes to what you consume. I am a fan of a few shows, but I try to treat the experience as a cross-cultural experiment rather than pure entertainment.
2) If you moved halfway across the world to show people the love of Jesus and tell them about the Bible, you probably wouldn’t hide in your house all the time or avoid talking about spiritual things once you got there. I confess I am a total coward when it comes to talking about God with nonbelievers. But it’s our job whether we send out support letters or not, so we’d better stop thinking about how comfortable it makes us feel and take it seriously.
3) Remember that disciple-making starts at home. If we are impacted by the immoral tsunami that washes across our shore each day, just think about what it is doing to our kids. One of the easiest ways to do this is just by making them aware of their alien status and teaching them to see the difference between the water and dry land. And if there is no avoiding the water, we can at least teach them to swim.